• Work Hard
  • 25th May 2024
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  • 6 minutes

The Whitley Bay butcher who broke the glass ceiling

Kathryn Meadows of Whitley Bay’s Nicholson’s Butchers talks to High Life North about the necessity of innovation, women in the meat industry and ensuring sustainability.

Earlier this month, Whitley Bay’s Nicholson’s Butchers showcased their talents on the national stage as they won big at the Smithfield Awards at a ceremony in London.

The butchers scooped Gold awards for their Spanish Chicken and Chorizo Pie & Northumbrian Slow Cooked Beef Stroganoff Pie – the highest possible rating from the Guild, alongside 2 Silver awards for their Northumbrian Dry Aged Sirloin Steak and Homemade Pork Sausage.

The Butchers in Park View was founded by Charles Nicholson 110 years ago and the family-run business is still thriving four generations later with Kathryn Meadows at the helm.

The great-granddaughter of Charles Nicholson helped her Father and Grandfather at the butchers as a young girl and instantly developed a passion for the meat industry.

She subsequently went to university and got a degree in Food Science before working for big food manufacturers and retail companies. However, Meadows felt like she was just a “small cog in a big machine” and wanted something more fulfilling and to not have to “answer 600 questions before doing something.”

Therefore, in 2012, she returned to the family business to re-learn the specific trade and operations before taking over from her now semi-retired father.

“It’s the best job I have ever had! The hardest, but the best at the same time,” said Meadows. “It’s really challenging but I love the fast pace and I’m never bored. I’m lucky that we have a fabulous team that works here and we are all excited about what we are doing and open to new ideas.”

Over the years, butchery has evolved and has had to adapt to the times. Butchers have to be more than butchers and continuously adapt to changing consumer trends and demands and strive to innovate to stay ahead of the increasing competition from supermarkets.

“We have had to change with the times. My background was in food product development and I worked for one of the big retailers so I had a lot of experience launching new products and putting them on the shelves. So when I took over from my Dad, I brought that experience here.”

Meadows has made sure that Nicholson’s is more of a “one-stop shop” and sells fruit and veg, bread buns for the meat and locally sourced cheeses that match the butcher’s ethos for sustainability.

The Whitley Bay butchers also ensure that they continue their legacy of innovation and developing fresh and exciting products for their customers to enjoy – like the aforementioned award-winning Spanish Chicken and Chorizo Pie.

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“We are always innovating new products. We look at food trends and ingredients and see what sells well for us. We have this Spanish chicken dish and it sells really well so we thought it would work well in a pie, said Meadows. “Every week we come up with a fair few new products and we are constantly evolving to make us better and more exciting. We’ve got lots of customers who shop with us week in, week out and it’s really important that we work really hard to make sure they are still interested.”

The butchers have an internal taste panel and make sure that every recipe is approved by their team and add any finishing touches before selling it to their customers. A product that is currently going through this process is a ‘chicken breast stuffed with an nduja butter’ as they’re currently tweaking the recipe to ensure it’s as good as it can be for the customers.

It is not just fresh and innovative ideas that are crucial to thrive as a modern butcher, there is also the increasingly important subject of sustainability – which has always been one of Nicholson’s core values as a business.

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Meadows said that Nicholson’s have always worked sustainably and sourced and bought products locally. The butchers now list where their lamb and beef come from, which is of interest to the customers.

“A lot more customers are interested and want to know more about [sustainability.] We get a lot of people asking where things come from, as opposed to a few years ago where it wasn’t asked that often.”

Earlier this year, it was announced that Meadows would take over the position of chair at the Q Guild of Butchers – an association that represents over 120 of Britain’s butchers across the UK.

This marked the first time in its 37-year history that a woman has held this position. Meadows is hoping that she can help break the glass ceiling and make it a more attractive profession for women.

Traditionally, butchery is a heavily male-dominated profession and women only account for 36% of the meat industry workforce.

The owner of Nicholson’s Butchers has noticed a shift in a positive direction in recent years as more women are entering the industry. However, she asserts that there’s still a lot more to be done to address gender inequality.

“We are still a minority and it will be a long time before we are anywhere close to not being a minority.

“A butcher’s shop won’t survive if you’re just selling a butcher’s product over the shelves. It’s become more attractive to females because there’s so much more to do and it’s more exciting. It’s not just making sausages and bacon, we are creating really exciting ready meals and using innovative ingredients and watching food trends,” said Meadows.

Like the rest of the UK, Nicholson’s Butchers are hoping for sunshine this Summer as they prepare for their BBQ season. The team has started closely watching rising food trends and seeing what would excite their customers and ignite their taste buds.


Image credit: Lauren McWilliams
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Laura Kingston
Founder and Editor

Laura is the Founder and Editor of High Life North. She had the idea to set up an exclusively digital women’s magazine after feeling there was a gap in the market in the North East. With over 10 years of experience in marketing and PR, Laura had a very clear…


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